Hotel Magdalena Is a Breath of Fresh Air on South Congress

Situated on historic property, the new hotel feels like a tree house by the lake

By Lauren Jones
Photographs by Nick Simonite
Hotel Magdalena

Bunkhouse has opened their largest property yet – and it’s a gem.

Hotel Magdalena, situated on lush, sloping grounds at 1101 Music Lane, has captured the epitome of what Austinites love best: lakeside living and live music. With 89 rooms, a Barton Springs-inspired pool and Executive Chef Jeffrey Hundelt at the helm of restaurant Summer House on Music Lane, the hotel opened this fall on historic land once home to Willie Nelson’s Austin Opry House and a glitzy 1951 motor hotel.

“The story of the hotel is the story of Austin, of live music, the outdoors, and relishing the hot summers in our beloved rivers and creeks,” says Bunkhouse Group Design Director Tenaya Hills.

In order to represent the Austin spirit, Hills and architect David Lake of Lake Flato drew influence from the land, ultimately deciding on a lake house aesthetic. The result is an experience of tranquility: four buildings surround a central courtyard and pool, mimicking the lakeside feel, while guests can enjoy deep porches and custom rocking chairs.

Music is undoubtedly a big part of all of Bunkhouse properties, and Magdalena plans to host “live musical performances on the event lawn when large gathering feel safe again,” Hills remarks. While the city is still limiting gatherings, the team plans to get creative and plan socially distanced picnics by the pool, hotel-curated nature walks, movie screenings  as well as sunrise yoga.

The relaxing atmosphere is bolstered by the hotel’s sustainable and eco-friendly construction. In fact, it’s the first mass timber hotel in North America, formed from structurally engineered columns and beams and a cross-laminated timber deck. The architects, who worked with Canadian company Structure Craft, chose this option for its low carbon emissions and quicker construction times than typical concrete or steel structures.

Today, the structural decks, which are exposed throughout the rooms and porches, “recall the charm of Austin lake houses,” Clark says. The tiered property and sky-high rooms create a treehouse feel and a unique hotel experience in Austin.

When it came to interiors, Hills and her colleagues pushed the limits of color, texture and eclecticism, choosing a rich palette of orange, rust, yellow and blue for the guest rooms, which range from 310 square feet to 700 square feet, alongside one-of-a-kind vintage pieces and prints by Scott Newton, an original Austin Opry House photographer “which set the tone and give energy to each space,” she says.

There’s handmade custom tile, a laminate-topped bed/desk/couch system that fully utilizes each room’s floor plan, bedside lighting by David Weeks and chairs that feel as comfortable as bean bag – but are far more chic – by Italian furniture maker Moroso.

Showstoppers on the property include a custom Murano glass disc chandelier in the main lobby; Deep Tuft Sofa by Harvey Probber designed in 1972, a favorite of Hills and her colleagues; and a collage of works by the late Graham Harmon, an Austinite who acted as a laborer in the oil fields by day and painter at night.

“When he died, more than 5,000 pieces were found left behind,” says Hills.

Bunkhouse is known to name its properties after saints, and Magdalena pays tribute to Mary Magdalene. “She was both a sinner and a saint and Austin is a little of both,” she adds. Hotel Saint Cecilia’s sister property is indeed the best of both worlds, a culmination of Austin’s storied past, an ode to musicians new and old and a shining light for all that is to come.


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